Mean Mr. Mustard by the BeatlesWritten by: John Lennon (100%)
(credited as Lennon-McCartney)
Recorded: July 24-25 and 29, 1969 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England)
Mixed: July 30, August 14 and 21, 1969
John Lennon: lead and harmony vocals, piano (1905 Steinway Vertegrand "Mrs. Mills"), maracas
Paul McCartney: lead harmony vocals, bass guitar (1961 Fender Bass VI)
George Harrison: lead harmony vocals, lead and rhythm guitar (1968 Fender Rosewood Telecaster)
Ringo Starr: drums (1968 Ludwig Hollywood Maple), tambourine
Available on: (CDs in bold)
- Abbey Road, (US: Apple SO 383, UK: Apple PCS 7088, Parlophone CDP 7 46446 2)
- The middle in a trilogy of silly, almost throwaway "Abbey Road Medley" songs written by John while the band were on a spiritual journey in India during the spring of 1968, "Mean Mr. Mustard" was, like "Sun King" and "Polythene Pam," largely dismissed as trivial by their composer. And yet, Lennon considered "Mean Mr. Mustard" and "Pam" for the both the Beatles' proposed Get Back project (which later came to life as Let It Be) and the "White Album" of '68. Moreover, both were demoed by John in the spring of that year at George's "Kinfauns" home in Esher, Surrey.
- As with "A Day in the Life," John's inspiration for "Mean Mr. Mustard" came from a newspaper item, in this case a story of a man so miserly he hid his money in various places, including his rectum, in order to keep it from being stolen. ("Mean" is a UK euphemism for "stingy.") John, realizing he needed to clean up the reference, envisioned a miser hiding pound notes up his nose, leading some to think the song was about cocaine. Tony Bramwell, an old friend who was then heading up the Apple label, recalls a bag lady in London's Hyde Park that may also have served as inspiration for the line "sleeps in the park."
- Recording for "Mean Mr. Mustard" was done continuously with the previous song, "Sun King," as one mini-medley inside the Abbey Road medley, with Lennon switching from piano to guitar and Paul running his bass through a fuzztone effect for the second song. The basic track was laid down in one session of 35 takes on July 24, 1969, after Paul laid down his demo for Badfinger's "Come and Get It." (The group then ran through some old covers -- Gene Vincent's "Who Slapped John?" and "Be-Bop-A-Lula," as well as "Ain't She Sweet," which they'd covered with Tony Sheridan in their early days. The next day, Lennon re-cut his lead vocal, with harmonies added by the three singing Beatles. Finally, on the 29th, he laid down his piano track, along with some maracas and Ringo's tambourine.
- The original demo of "Mustard" featured a bridge that went "Mean Mr. Mustard / He's such a dirty, dirty --" which was later revealed in the Let It Be sessions as "such a dirty bastard." It was eventually (and wisely) dropped. In the original, Mr. Mustard's sister is named "Shirley," but Lennon changed it to "Pam" to create continuity with the Abbey Road medley and its next song, "Polythene Pam".
- "Her Majesty" was originally slated to bridge this song with "Polythene Pam," but in assembling the Abbey Road medley, it seemed to halt the momentum, so it was removed. A bit of editing on August 14 replaced the last note of "Mustard" with the first note of "Polythene Pam." "Her Majesty," which is heard at the end of the album as a sort of bonus track, begins with the last note of "Mustard."
- Lennon later referred to this song as "a bit of crap" and "a piece of garbage."
Covered by: Frankie Howerd and the Bee Gees,Booker T. and the MGs, Transatlantic, Receiver, Suburban Skies, Umphrey's McGee, The Studio Sound Ensemble, Mike Westbrook, The Brian Browne Trio, Life in General, Heiko Effertz, Samson Trinh and the Upper East Side Big Band, The Devil's Rubato Band, The Atrium Vocal Ensemble